Discover more from Pope Head Post
Contro Venezia Passatista
A translation of Marinetti's indictment of Venice
I have decided to translate Marinetti's great indictment of Venice. His powerful attack on the cult of the past. His roaring call to destroy Venetian sentimentalism and the entire Adriatic around it. I haven't seen an English translation of it yet, so here we have the famous Futurist declaration in English.
I find the genius of Marinetti and his wrath invigorating. In July of 1910, Marinetti and his fellow futurists assailed the eardrums of the Venetians from the clock tower and scattered these pamphlets to the wind. There is an element within this address that I find utterly intoxicating. The vitriol intermingled with exquisite prose and imagery- it is sublime. Marinetti was on a divine crusade. Death to sentimentalism! Death to the Museum! Death to the cult of the past!
While I obviously do not agree with all of the Futurist’s aims, as the movement was intentionally a bit mad and provocative, it is this spirit that must be channeled today. (I would take a bullet to stop a single fresco in a Venetian basilica from being cracked). But the sentimentalism that animates them is what must be lynched. The situation in Italy today is just as bad if not worse, nothing has changed, and in America today I think there is much to be gained from the futurist spirit. I will be doing much more of these translations going forward. I have taken some liberties with this translation because Marinetti is dead and I am not. HAH
Contro Venezia Passatista
We repudiate the old Venice, the antique Venice, the Venice exhausted and torn apart by age-old pleasures, that we too once loved and grasped in a nostalgic dream.
We repudiate the Venice of the foreigners, a market of forgery, a magnet of snobbism and imbecility, a bed torn apart by sex-crazed caravans, a jewel-encrusted bath for cosmopolitan whores, a sewer, a sphincter in which the past pools.
We wish to heal this putrid city, which has been infected with the plague of the past. We wish to reanimate and ennoble the Venetian populace, these people who have fallen from old glory, poisoned by sickening cowardice and the habits of their little shady businesses.
We wish to prepare the birth of an industrial and martial Venice, that can utterly ruin the Adriatic sea, that grand Italian lake. Let us make haste, let us fill those fetid canals with rubble, with the ruins of the lecherous old palaces that overshadow them.
BURN the gondolas! Those rocking chairs for the retarded, as we raise the imposing geometry of metal bridges and smoking factories to the height of the heavens, to ABOLISH the flaccid curves of the old architecture!
Let the reign of the divine electric light come at last, to liberate Venice from her venal moonlight, from her furnished rooms.
When we cry “Let us kill the moonlight!” We are thinking of you, old Venice soaked in romance! But now our voices are amplified, and we add high notes, “We will liberate the world from the tyranny of love! We are finished with erotic adventure, lust, sentimentalism, and nostalgia!”
So why do you persist Venice, in offering us veiled women at every twilight turn of your canals?
Enough! Enough! Stop whispering obscene invitations to every passing person of the earth o Venice, old pimp, who under your heavy mantilla of mosaics, still persist in preparing exhausting romantic nights, querulous serenades and fearful ambushes!
I loved it too, o Venice, the sumptuous twilight of your grand canal, impregnated with rare lust, and the feverish pallor of your beauties, that slide down from balconies on stairs intertwined with lightning, of threads of rain and moonlight, among the clashing of crossed swords.
But enough! All of this absurd stuff, abominable and irritating, it makes us nauseous!
And now we want the electric lamps with a thousand points of light to brutally cut and tear away your mysterious, bewitching, and persuasive darkness!
Your grand canal, wide and dug, will inevitably become a mercantile port. Trains and trams launched along the large streets built on the finally filled canals will bring you piles of merchandise, among a shrewd, rich and busy crowd of industrialists and traders!...
Do not cry out against the supposed ugliness of the locomotive, of the tram, of the automobile, of the bicycle, in which we find the first lines of the great futurist aesthetic that can always serve to crush some filthy and grotesque Nordic professor with the little Tyrolean hat.
But you would rather prostrate yourself before all foreigners, you repugnant slaves! Venetians! Venetians! Why do you want to be forever be the faithful slaves of the past, the filthy custodians of the greatest brothel of history, the nurses of the saddest hospital in the world, where souls languish, mortally corrupted by the light of sentimentalism?
Oh! I don't lack images if I want to define your vain and foolish inertia as that of the son of a great man or the husband of a famous singer! Your gondoliers, couldnt I perhaps compare them with gravediggers, intent on digging graves in a washed out and flooded cemetery? But nothing can offend you, for your humility is boundless.
It is known, moreover, that you have the wise concern of enriching the Society of Grand Hotels, and it is precisely for this that you persist in rotting without moving!
And yet, you were at one time invincible warriors, brilliant artists, audacious navigators, ingenious industrialists and tireless merchants. And yet you have become hotel bus boys, tour guides, pimps, antique dealers, fraudsters, makers of old paintings, plagiarists, and copyists. Have you forgotten that you are first and foremost Italians, and that this word, Italians, in history means “Builders of the future?” Do not defend yourself from accusations with talks of the degenerating effect of the Sirocco. It was this torrid and bellicose wind that filled the sails of the heroes of Lepanto. This same African wind will suddenly accelerate, on an infernal noon, the deaf work of the corrosive waters that undermine your venerable city.
Oh! How we will dance that day! Oh! How we will applaud the lagoons, to incite them to destruction! And what an immense round dance we will dance around the illustrious ruin! We will all be madly cheerful, we, the last rebellious students in this too-wise world!
Thus, o Venetians, we sang, danced, and laughed before the agony of the island of Philae, which died like a decrepit rodent behind the Aswan Dam, the immense trap with electric trapdoors, in which the futurist genius of England imprisons the fleeting sacred waters of the Nile!
Yes, just shrug your shoulders and shout at me that I am a barbarian, incapable of enjoying the divine poetry that waves on your enchanting islands! Go! You have no reason to be very proud of it!…
Free Torcello, Burano, the island of the Dead, from all the sick literature and from all the immense romantic reverie with which the poets poisoned by the fever of Venice have veiled them, and you will be able, laughing with me, to consider those islands as piles of dung that the mammoths dropped here and there as they waded across your prehistoric lagoons!
But you contemplate them stupidly, happy to rot in your filthy water, to endlessly enrich the Society of Grand Hotels, which cautiously and meticulously prepares the elegant nights for all the bourgeoise men of the earth!
Truly, it is no small thing, exciting their passions. Even if your guest is an Emperor, he must sail for a long time in the filth of this immense aquarium full of decorated shards, his gondoliers must row with their oars several kilometers of liquefied excrement, in a divine smell of the latrine, passing next to boats full of beautiful rubbish, among ambiguous floating parcels, in order to reach the goal as a true Emperor, happy with himself and his imperial scepter!
Behold, behold your glory, O Venetians!
Shame on you! Shame on you all! And throw yourselves on each other’s backs, like bags full of sand to form the bastion, on the border while we prepare a great and strong industrial, commercial, and martial Venice on the Adriatic, the great Italian lake!